Over the weekend, my oldest son walked in an autism walk, and at the end of the walk there were some free snacks given out by some sponsoring companies. One of those snacks was Baked Jax MultiGrain Cheese Curls in 100-calorie packs.


I grabbed a bag out of curiosity to read the ingredients. I liked some of what I saw, particularly the words “real cheddar cheese,” and “no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.” Cheese curls with no artificial flavors or colors? I thought it was worth a taste test.


It’s been a while since I’ve had cheese curls, but I’ve eaten my share of them in the past. From what I remember, the flavor of these cheese curls was the same as the cheese curls of my past.


I took a look at the difference between the MultiGrain Jax and the traditional Jax. The traditional Jax use both natural and artificial colors (Annatto Extract, Yellow No. 6, Turmeric Extract, Red No. 40, Caramel). The MultiGrain uses only Annatto Extract. The color of the MultiGrain Jax is quite orange, and it leads me to wonder why artificial dyes are needed at all.


The MultiGrain Jax contained both enriched corn meal and whole grain corn meal. (And, apparently the tiniest bit of rice flour since that is the last ingredient listed). The traditional Jax contain only enriched corn meal. The whole grains in the MultiGrain Jax bump the fiber in them up to 1 gram. The traditional Jax has no fiber. There is 1 gram less fat and 70 grams less sodium in the MultiGrain Jax, too.


Does any of this make MultiGrain Jax healthy food or something that should be eaten every day? Of course not. But it brings up an interesting point: junk food can be less junky. There are fewer troublesome ingredients (and literally fewer ingredients) in the MultiGrain Jax than there are in the traditional ones.


I didn’t do a taste test of the MultiGrain Jax with the traditional Jax. I’m wasn’t looking to see which one was tasted better. I was curious to see if the “better” Jax actually tasted good — and to me, they did. 


I’m not going to put MultiGrain Jax on my weekly grocery list. If I did regularly buy snack foods like this for my family, I hope I would switch to versions that were less junky over the traditional version if I was aware of the difference in ingredients. For those of you who might regularly buy snacks like Jax, would you be likely to switch to the MultiGrain because the ingredients are less troublesome?

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Baked MultiGrain Jax: A less junky junk food
The cheesy residue on your hands from MultiGrain Jax looks like regular cheesy residue, but it’s made of real cheese and natural colors.